This year’s Mount Takao fire-walking festival was undoubtedly the most unusual matsuri I’ve ever been to. Not, however, due to its focus, but instead the date it was held — March 13th. Only 48 hours after the earthquake. A day when the full horror of the resultant tsunami was really beginning to hit home, along with increasing worries about the horrible potential of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
All of which made for a slightly surreal, yet at the same time very cathartic experience. Simply being there, surrounded by other people, was undoubtedly helpful; the festival somehow acting as a reminder as well as an escape from events — both ongoing and past. Yet it was a day that I simply forgot. Or at least I did after posting a picture of the priest below praying at a ceremony that signalled the start of the proceedings.
Coming across the images again, however, not only brought back memories, but also surprised me, as, despite having no particular intent when I took the photographs, all the thoughts of those participating seem to be somewhere else. Somewhere further north.
Of course it could be purely coincidental, or simply me exaggerating what, in different circumstances, would just be regular expressions. But either way, it at least puts the festival into some kind of context.
One that in many ways was a welcome diversion, but at the same time a very reverential one.
And what I presume are pilgrims.
Had extra meaning.
Culminating in the lighting of an enormous fire.
The heat and sound of which was quite incredible.
Then, when everything had been burnt, and what was left had become a fiercely glowing carpet, the priests and pilgrims took off their shoes and marched over it with no apparent hesitation whatsoever. A scene that frustratingly I couldn’t photograph, as there was no clear view.
In fact, only when the burning embers had sufficiently cooled down, and a path of sorts had been created, did I get the chance, as those watching were then allowed to walk across as well.
Which was still a fairly interesting and unusual sight.
Even a much-needed light-hearted one too, as this old lady almost appears to have taken a wrong turn when heading home from the shops, bizarrely finding herself hurrying barefoot over what was recently a bonfire.
Wasn’t this festival a way for people to get over their fears/problems? Walking barefoot representing the courage and strength to move forward even in difficult times?
I know I’ve read about this somewhere but I wasn’t exactly sure. If so, this festival must’ve been even more special to the people there given the circumstances.
Lovely pictures, as always.
I’m not exactly sure what the reason behind the festival is, but I have a feeling it’s about burning away bad luck. I was certainly glad they decided to go ahead with it though. The few hours it was on definitely helped all those present.
Trev in Osaka says
The text/photo at the end of your post was a laugh-out-loud moment for me. Thanks for that. Fascinating post too, considering the back story.
Thanks Trev! Happy to hear it made you laugh. It was certainly a much needed unusual moment.
Once again, great post – excellent photos and also joy in the absurd (amidst the emotion of the event). Nice one. Shame about the lack of a good shot, but this is always the difficulty. They will however always stay with you, and give others (with the opportunity) the interest in seeing it for themselves.
Cheers Ben. Yeah, I’d positioned myself in what I initially though was a good spot. Turned out it wasn’t. But yeah, I have the memories, plus, if I go back next year, I know exactly where to stand.
I only seen once Firewalking in Singapore during Hindu Festival. The people who walked was a test of faith to their religion.
I didn’t know that Japan have Firewalking Festival .
Thank you for sharing.
Interesting post and awesome Pictures too!!
Thanks Winnie. Like I mentioned in an earlier comment, I’m not quite sure what the meaning is behind it, but I do know they hold the same event every year. It’s a very popular one too.
“Even a much-needed light-hearted one too, as this old lady almost appears to have taken a wrong turn when heading home from the shops, bizarrely finding herself hurrying barefoot over what was recently a bonfire.”
Her to husband in the genkan – “Not only do I smell like smoke, I seem to have left my shoes at Tobu Depaato!”
Poor old lady!
Lovely images. Very moving. Nice ending too! 🙂
I just love their colorless stamped robes. Festivals are so unique, it’s amazing.
Yeah, they are always interesting. And, like you say, unique. No matter how many I go to, they never fail to fascinate.
If I’m not mistaken, I think this festival was featured in one of the legs of the Amazing Race. This is one heck of a festival!
I’m not sure about the Amazing Race, Cynthia, but yeah, it is definitely quite a festival.
I am so completely in love with your images.
If I could marry them, I totally would.
Wow, that’s quite a compliment Kate. Thank you very much!
Amazing photos. Thanks for linking to the Mt. Takao site. I hope to get there next year for the event.
Cheers Phil. Glad to hear the link was useful. This year, due to the circumstances, it was relatively quiet, but next year I’d advice getting there early.
Have you tried?
I would have like to have done, but no, not this time. The line was enormous, and I’m really not the most patient when it comes to queueing.
Yes i was there ! So impressive fire !! Now, no more matsuri in Tokyo and they cancelled also fireworks this summer 🙁